The Saxons (Under 14s) claimed the the Hampshire County Plate with an emphatic victory over Winchester, beating the hosts 31-0 in a dominant display

Winchester started the season as the 4th seeds and the Saxons, seeded 7th, have never beaten them before. Our last meeting was in last years Cup Quarter Finals when we were beaten 35-0, so the team knew they would have to play well if they were going to even compete.

The Saxons started really strongly and soon established some dominance with good possession delivered by determined rucking and players making half breaks and support players keen to carry on the attack.

But as in the Petersfield semi-finals, the nerves were apparent, with players anxious to perform, over-running passes, whipping passes out too hard or forwards or just knocking on.

The execution was frustrating, but the endeavour was magnificent and the Saxons still had the initiative. The early pressure produced a penalty just in range, but it fell left. Winchester had a half chance of attack, but the tackling and counter rucking gave us the ball back. The first ten minutes were played all in the Winchester half and then our break came.

A strong scrum provided good quick ball which Jack Adams at inside Centre got cleanly away to Rory Richardson outside him running on to the ball at pace. Rory Richardson pulled the defence wide, stretching them and was nearly through himself but was just snagged by a desperate winger. Jack Adams had run a 'training ground' loop and was there to take a lovely, safe offload from Rory Richardson, accelerate and hand off the full-back, finishing off under the posts. Jamie Stephenson converted and added the points. This was the start the Saxons wanted and deserved.

Winchester responded with a period of possession and applied pressure, showing they were capable of making half breaks, their centre and No 8 looking dangerous with the ball. They were held up over the line by a determined Saxon defence and we held our lead.

By this time our scrum was dominating, with the Winchester scrum going backwards and their scrum-half desperately trying to recover the ball and he was easy pickings for Jamie Stephenson or the flankers, Alfie Claridge and James Taylor.

Having won the ball back, Saxons went on the offensive and produced the best, most structured phases of play we have seen this season. Driving up the left flank, initially from an Ollie Davis break at Full Back, the pack and left wing drove the ball up field through four or five phases, drawing defenders in and narrowing the Winchester defence. Strong runs from Rob Henderson, Tom Wilson, Ashley McMahon-Williams, Kieran Jelley and Jake Adams-Mitchell, supported by great rucking from the pack drew defenders to almost one half of the pitch and the Saxons had a two man overlap.

Without prompting, the ball came, swiftly through the hands to Rory Richardson who sized up his defender and rightly went himself to score by the posts, with Ollie Davis and winger Ben Brooker unopposed outside him. The half finished 14-0 but this was no time to get complacent.

The Saxons knew themselves that if they sat back and tried to protect a lead it would come crashing around them against a quality side like Winchester so they committed to each other to maintain the aggression, work rate and support play that had won them so much in the first half. As one parent commented, you could feel the energy and belief coming fom the Saxon huddle at half time.

The second half started brightly, with Saxons continuing to pile on the pressure, with strong runs by Rob and Dom on the right wing, interspersed by runs from the outside centre Rory. To be fair, Winchester responded, covering Rory with their best defenders and then closing him down, but that just lead them into the trap. At the next set piece, the defence was lined up for Rory and Jack dummied and went, making the break that set up another five or six phases of attacks resulting in James Taylor crashing over to score. This was not white line fever, this was Saxons going through the phases and finding ways to score; they had options.

When a Winchester clearing kick went straight to Rory, with room on the outside, the result was almost inevitable. There was still much to do, with two defenders to beat, the last attached to Rory as he crashed over the line. Winchester did respond and then had a period of significant possession and mounted attaks of their own. Suddenly their dangerous No 8 was away down the left wing, beating two defenders and setting his sights on the try line.

He apeared to be set to score, but had been expertly tracked by Ollie Davis at Full Back who suddenly accelerated and launched into a cover tackle, crashing him into the touchline 10 yards out. The Winchester coach applauded, describing it as a 'lion stalking a gazelle', Gosport parents supporting U15 Gosport players at the Counties watched it and agreed it was a tackle of the season.

To finish, the Saxons defended their line, won the ball and then Jack adams produced a long miss pass to Ollie Davis, 5m out, who slowed to draw in their strongest tackler and then accelerated away, he handed off a further two tacklers, stepping through their tackles, to score a wondorous length of the pitch try.

This was an amazing performance from the Saxons against a quality side. The gracious Winchester Head Coach remarked that they had been beaten by a whole team effort; it wasn't one or two brilliant players, it was by a whole team that was very good in all positions on the pitch and off the bench. The attacks and strong defence came everywhere. The pack were awesome and dominant, the backs explosive and dangerous. And this didn't change when substitutions were made, there was no change in tempo, pace, menace or threat, even with players playing out of position like Will H in the second row!

This is what we have trained for Saxons, not just this year, but since U8. A strong whole team performance. Every squad player played, with the exception of Toby Todd who was nursing an injury, but ready to go on.

As the Winchester Head Coach said, you could have been competing for the Cup this year, you were that good.

Your chance will come next year to challenge the top teams, as you have earned your place in the County's Top Division for next season, and there is nothing to fear there.

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